I want to work for the prison service. Am I crazy?

I’m applying for the Prison Service fast track scheme. Working in prisons is something I wanted to when I was younger, but it fell by the wayside while I went and got my fancy degree and then had to get a job sharpish. I currently work for the ambulance service, planning ambulance routes and I’ve been here a year. Now I’m lookng to move to London and I’ve decided to go for this.

Working in the prison service involves a lot of things I value in a job - interesting, variation, working with people, contributing something to the community, and perhaps making a difference in people’s lives. It’s a real challenge. I would be proud of my job. Plus a spiffy uniform. The fast track scheme means 9 weeks of school, then nine months of prison officer grunt work, then a year of non-operation duties (working at HQ, or whatever), then management training, and ultimately leading to a management position in three years. A good career progression.

BUT. It’s a very stressful job. I am worried I won’t have the fortitude to deal with it. It’s hardly the most rewarding job out there. It’s shiftwork and nightwork. It’s a big commitment. I guess I’m a little intimidated.

Am I crazy to think about doing this? Should I go for it, or should I take heed of my reservations?

i think you should go for it - as you say, its a worthwhile job and its certainly challenging.

Carpe Diem and all that :slight_smile:

We’ve got a prison doctor around here somewhere…he could probably give you some insights.

QtM, where are you?

Yeah, I was hoping either Qadgop or casdave would drop by with some advice.

Something I forgot to mention: I am female and 4ft10. I’m not going to be storming in to break up fights any time soon. But apparently, you’re not expected to put yourself in dangerous situations and there are officers specially trained to deal with violence. Still, something to think about.

Wow. I had no idea you were so short.

In that case, no. You shouldn’t do it.


They give you a truncheon. To beat people who mock you.

Fnarr fnarr. A nudge is as good as a wink to a blind man.

Incidentally: I say that if it is something you’ve wanted to do since you were a little girl then go for it. Unless you really do like the ambulance gig, of course.

Okay, casdave could give you better insight on the British prison system, but here’s my take on working “behind the walls”.

First, it’s just a job. 99% of the time it will be boring routine. Prisoners are people.

Two, gender and size will be issues, but more psychological than physical. Physical strength rarely comes into actual play. But the impression that you lack physical strength will cause prisoners to challenge you more. You’ll need better psychological skills to overcome this. I’m a man, so I can’t give you much advice on what it’s like being a woman working in a prison, except to say you will face additional problems because of it.

Three, I’ve seen many new employees come into prison on a mission. They seem to think they’re the first person who’s ever had the idea that if only someone would give these people a chance, they could turn their life around. Unfortunately, this generous impulse makes them a target of the worst manipulators in the system. Usually what happens is that within a month the new employee realizes their trust was betrayed and does a 180 in their attitude and announces lethal injections are too good for these scumbags and we should line them all up and beat them to death with clubs. Obviously, the better ground lies in the middle. Go in with your eyes open and realize that most of the prisoners are willing to take advantage when they can. Balance your desire to help with a certain level of cynicism.

Four, prisons are an incredibly regulated society. They need to be. You’ve got a large group of people who’ve demonstrated they put their own needs and desires above those of the people around them. In addition, many of these people have psychological problems of varying degrees. And finally, there is the difficulty of running a society of hundreds or thousands of people and providing for their needs in an efficient fashion. So you’re going to see a lot of rules; many of which will seem arbitrary or silly. And some of them will be arbitrary or silly. But try to learn the system before you start changing it. Some minor rules which seem pointless may serve an important purpose. There will be times when you need to bend the rules, but understanding the consequences will help you decide when those occasions occur.

Yeah, I think I am going in with my eyes well open. I have no illusions about the fact that most prisoners re-offend and are ready to manipulate you any way they can.

I actually talked to casdave about this at the last UKDope, which is what re-sparked my interest in working in the prison service. But I’m hoping he can reassure me that it’s not crazy to want to do this.

If that’s what you want to do, then I’d go for it.

Mind you, this is advice from a woman who looks at things a heck of a long way away for a living…

you’re a sniper?


I would suggest reading the book “Newjack” by Ted Conover (Amazon link). Although I am not a prison guard, I found it to be a very interesting read.

I ordered that very book from amazon yesterday :slight_smile:

Ted Conover works in the same prison system I do although not in the same prison. I can vouch that his book is a very accurate depictation of working in a New York state prison. Of course, you’ll be working in the UK, so YKMV.

I guess that’s kilometerage? What do you Euro’s say for mileage?

Anyway, good luck with it, Frannie (still hoping for a casdave visit).

Well in Britain, we say “milage”, 'cos that’s what we use too :slight_smile:

(Or, indeed, “mileage”)

I think you should go for it. It certainly could be tough, but, if you want to do it, that motivation is a powerful factor in offsetting the stress of the job.

People do do better in jobs they actually like. Or so I’m told. (Returns to testing things on websites.)